Film of a film of a film of my AltSpace “Home”

I have discovered that AltSpace works on some kind of web3D, or at least can be extended thus. My room for example has 2 spaces one can load up a 3D webpage and see it in VR. Im only doing examples at the moment, but I inserted a rotating moon on one end of the room and the earth at the other.
So I filmed around a bit using the Oculus recording function. Then I watched THAT film in the oculus video app, choosing the Moon as the location. (Theres a screen on the moon where you can watch films) then I filmed THAT. THEN I watched THAT film in the more regular Cinema Viewing mode. And filmed that… See the result below.
TO summerise, its a film of a film of a film of me showing off my Home in Alt Space.
The actual demonstration film will follow.

AltSpace

Max hanging out in his high rise apartment.

Oculus Go envigored my interest in VR and I went looking for the real thing.
The 80s dream of a virtual world where you can have a home, walk about, meet people and do stuff has always fascinated me, indeed my first job in Norway (ok third, first two don’t count)was Astronaut Media who were building a place in the now defunct (or so I thought) Active Worlds for the Scandinavian internet operator SOL. (more on AW in another post soon).
Of course Active Worlds and the later and more porny Second Life are both 2D (er.. yes 3d characters and worlds but not VR… you know what I mean) so they are not really the VR we were dreaming of, but then I stumbled upon AltSpace!
So far Im having alot of fun. and not a price in sight! Is there anything to pay for at all? I think its totally funced my Microsoft, so it’s a good contender for “going somewhere”. I´m in!

For a start, it handles almost all possible devices (except mac and IOS, microsoft remember..) Oculus Rift, Oculus Go, Samsung Gear (still oculus really) Google Daydream (cardboard in a nice box, a very nice box) HTC Vive, Windows mixed reality headsets, and a very usable desktop, non-VR version.
After briefly getting used to controls in my home (Bit unsure as of this time if I can get visitors here, and there seem to be many possible “homes”, I changed mine later to the”Highrise”, I head off to explore, here I am exploring. Again, at this stage Im not sure if Im likely to bump into anyone, maybe I have to invite people to come with me, which means you need “friends”.

Anyway, soon you discover that the main place to meet people is  a cosy little place called “The campfire”.

Here I am with my new friend.

Here I mostly listened in to people’s conversations (feeling a bit odd about speaking our load in my house incase my family thought I had gone mad). This one fellow, pictured above, took me for a noob and offered to show me a few tricks. These are, picking up stuff. A stick or a firework, and throwing them. This sounds simplistic and sarcky, ok a bit, but it’s a start. Then he showed me how to light the firework, and hit a xylophone with the stick (which didn’t work so well). But now I have a friend, from Taiwan. Maybe I should invite him to my home… Except, its very generic… I wonder what I can do about that?
OK, back at my home I discover I can play videos on my big screen so I do that, then (after some time googling) I find that there are something called enclosures where you can put stuff, this is code you host yourself (or github if you prefer) I follow some tutorials and now I have a Moon hangin and rotating in my room, which is very cool.
Then I discover you can start your own spaces from scratch, which I do, twice, figured Id make to very different places. This proves to be harder than I thought. But I managed to make 2 teleporters to these worlds in my Home anyhow. Ill do something with them later.
I discover Shanes Editor, which appears to be a more advanced editor, best on the desktop version, but haven’t gone there yet, next post maybe.

 

Oculus Go

So I got an Oculus Go. I have finally got a bit of an R and D project, maybe leading to a demo for a VR game, which I’m super excited about. The Oculus Go was suggested as a platform for the customer along with Gear VR, so I decided to check it out. I amd super impressed. OK on paper its not as powerful as my Oculus Rift, but to be honest, I can’t really tell, and the fact that its STAND-ALONE, needs NO computer… and works, right out of the box, is such a HUGE thing, that it’s impossible not to see this as the future of VR.

 

AR Experiments

Im now trying alot of experiments using AR, or Augmented Reality. Using the Vuforia service, now built into Unity its actually pretty easy to do.
A City, where you can get down on your knees and look around, Ive got location based audio to work, so when you approach a character they talk, and looking to get touch to work so that you can fix stuff. Im thinking of a kind of Groundhog day senario where things happen, and if you can solve them they dissappear, and dont return, but if you dont they loop. So  a building catches fire and if you call the Fire Brigade they will come and fix that, if not, the fire burns out, with casualties (Shown by a zealous Hearse drive who turns up after every accident. A Mother who has lost there child, a UFO that abducts a car (you just move the car to thwart the aliens)

Also a kind  HSE game (maybe selling at work) a dangerous warehouse where all sorts of accidents happen… same gameplay.. fix them and they clear away.

 

 

Fractal 3

This fractal film took even longer to render due to adding reflections.

Im beginning to get the hang of this now, and the hard-drive is filling up with things that need rendering. I’m even starting to formulate some kind of concept for a full-length fractal film.

working title.
Z = Z² + C

Ultimately, due to the nature of fractals, being in some way related to nature and “How things are”, it’s hard not to use that as a starting place.
The universe is a strange place, and basically anything can exist. The planet on which we live is both unique in the universe, but also common… No one cares if we fuck it up.

So my concept is to produce a kind of “on-board dash cam” video of a spaceship that has just arrived at a new world, and is sending back images to earth of what it has found. It’s a strange landscape, with peculiar properties, physics isn’t quite the same here, plant life morphs and evolves as we watch, mountain ranges fold and move. After a time a long gone alien civilization is discovered, rotting, crumbling and also morphing and evolving.

Fractal Films 2

Having a lot of fun with this now.
The rendering takes forever though. This film, called Islamicfly took 4 days to render.

But now I have my PC set up as well, I can render on both! Its pretty clever, as long as both machines can see the same network folder, they dont over write each others files, so Im rendering a png sequence and depth matte (forgot that on the above film) and each computer tackle alternate frames.

Oculus first impressions

Nikolas getting almost the first go in Oculus VR
Nikolas getting almost the first go in Oculus VR

So my long awaited Oculus Rift arrived over the summer. I had to wait a bit to get it going cos I didn’t have a good enough computer, but finally succumbed to a PC with latest GeForce 1070 graphics card, and was all set.

After a pretty simple and flaw free set-up I finally got into the Rift and… wow!
Although I have tried many Rift set-ups at Meet-ups in Oslo recently and also the Vive with its slightly improved location tracking features, I was not really prepared for actually HOW immersive it is. The field of view basically covering your vision completely and the indistinguishable head tracking means that looking around in a room, is quite a surreal experience. I immediately downloaded all that was free from the Oculus Store. Almost the best example is in fact the “Luckys Tale” kids game, I was expecting the best experiences from 1st person things, but in Luckys tale you play a little fox as a 3rd person character. There was no sickness feeling as you maneuvered him around the jumping and fighting platform game, and the look is extremely realistic, if a cartoon can be considered realistic. Its almost as if you are “playing” with plastic or wooden things.
Many of the free games are very short, very beautiful, and trying to be emotional. A few criticisms were the Abe VR… gory and grotesque.. removed it immediately…  going for shock value, and Eve… Felt sick within seconds, and cannot really stay in that one for longer than 5 minutes before feeling very queasy… OK.. in that one you can bank and dive your spaceship in all directions and of course, that probably IS pretty queasy. But then I noticed… there’s NOTHING (free) on the store with simple walking around in an environment. Almost all examples are static, with “head-look”… and that works very well…

So what of movement?

With relatively little hassle I got a version of my The Window project working, originally for Google cardboard, with Gaze look controls for walking and interacting. Theres some work to do there, I had to look a little obliquely at buttons to get them to fire, but Ill probably sort that out. Again, headlook works great.. BUT.. as soon as I move around… quease… nausea… sick!

I was quite disappointed by this. It can be that movement needs to be VERY carefully tweaked, with some easing in and out of movement.. my basic Unity player controller with VR enabled does not have this, its stop start.. and quite brutal movement. I generally DON’T like easing on normal 1st person games, they feel laggy, but I think it might be needed in VR. This needs some reading up.

I am very excited about what I will do in VR, I have many plans and experiments to do… Im generally NOT impressed by architectural walkthroughs, which appears to be the only genuine “monetization” ideas anyone seems to have… as the actor playing Mark Zuckerberg says in “The Social Network”… “We don’t even know WHAT this is yet!!!”
If the nausea is a default with VR, and not fixable, it’s NOT going to take over and be “Virtual Reality” as the Matrix or Cyberpunk authors would have us believe, maybe 360 degree movies, ARE the way ahead after all? Do we NEED to be able to physically “walk around, in the room, like Vive offers?

I don’t think so…

Sitting as I am at home, I generally do NOT want to leap out of my chair and stand as some of the demos suggest I do… let alone walk about in a virtual space at home, (although this is probably very interesting as gallery/museum installations) and I DON’T want to have to crane my head around behind me to follow the “action” in a  360 degree, but fixed position piece, no… I want to be able to “walk, while sat, staring roughly straight ahead, looking about of course, but move.. through an environment, through rooms, down roads. However I DO like the body positioning the oculus sensor affords. That I could sit down on the floor and examine the carpet, or stand up and peer over things was nice.

I’m looking forward to my The Valley piece in VR, where the idea is that movement around the environment will allow you to explore, but sitting (maybe even lying) still will encourage wildlife to come out and approach you, but movement will scare them off.
(S0 its time to go off and trawl the Unity app store for VR ready player characters with easing and controller support… making your own is so time consuming and tiresome…)

All in all, I’m excited where this will go, especially as I can already appreciate some of the challenges that VR will pose, especially in extended use. I am far from being experienced in this yet, but i do feel that the future I envisioned in 1989 on the Southsea Fairground flying game (a cumbersome helmet with blocky and laggy graphics) is finally here… and its up to artists and storytellers to grasp this new medium before the big boys (to paraphrase Marisa Tomei in “My Cousin Vinnie”) “… fuck it up!”